President Biden said Friday that “it’s not the time to relax” coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, “these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic.”

What they’re saying: “We are watching these concerning data very closely to see where they will go over the next few days. But it’s important to remember where we are in the pandemic,” Walensky said.

  • “Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions,” she added.
  • “I want to be clear: Cases, hospital admissions, and deaths all remain very high, and the recent shift in the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously.”

For his part, Biden said thatcases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge.”

  • “And it’s not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, staying socially distanced, and for God’s sake, wear your mask. It’s not a political statement. It’s a patriotic thing to do.”

The big picture: Walensky said the country is currently reporting a 7-day average of 66,350 COVID-19 cases and 2,000 per day, a slight increase from the seven-day averages reported by the CDC earlier this week.

  • “The latest data suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at, still, a very high number,” she said.

Go deeper: About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says